Lydia Davis

Like Don DeLillo, Lydia Davis is as much sculptor as writer. “I put that word on the page, but he added the apostrophe,” reads the entirety of one recent story, “Collaboration With Fly.” Another, “My Mother’s Reaction to My Travel Plans,” doesn’t even stretch onto a second line: “Gainsville! It’s too bad your cousin is dead!” These and other stories are contained the 733 pages of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30), which are full of philosophical churning, much of it revelatory and even more of it, probably, inconclusive. Style is character, Joan Didion once observed. And over eight austere books—Davis’ prose has been unmatched in mirroring the workings of the mind. Yet there is humor here, too. Davis’ reputation is as a cerebral writer—her characters go unnamed and don’t do much, in the conventional plot sense—and some of the most successful stories in this collection are formal experiments. But Davis is more likeable than the forensic technician she’s so often pegged as. Her lapidary prose—like Didion’s—is above all else a monument to her perceptual intelligence; both writers are not just stylists, but intuitionists, too. (Tickets: 621-2230 and lectures.org.) ZACH BARON

Wed., Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m., 2009

 
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